AS THE GENERAL editor of The Women's Book of World Records and Achievements , I'd like to reassure your reviwer, Eve Zibart, on one point she raised in her attack (Style, March 6, 1979) on the book's contents, philosophy, and "political naivete": If Phyllis Schlafly, leader of the anti-ERA forces, does finally succeed in preventing the adoption of this necessary legislation, she will appear in a future edition-as a woman who achieved what she set out to do . . .
More importantly, I want to defend the 31 independent writers and expert consulting editors against your reviewerhs charges of fostering "sexual separatism." These women (22 of them Washingtonians, as their bios in the book show and readers of the Post might have liked to be informed) represent a very broad segment of experience and opinion, and vary greatly in the degree of their commitment (if any) to feminism. What united them in this project was their honest desire to put together a well-researched popular book recognizing the many 20th-century "firsts" and other achievements of a broad spectrum of women-the obscure along with the established. A similar urge, I believe, lies behind the more scholarly work going on at Radcliffe's estimable Schlesinger Memorial Library on the History of Women in America; would Ms. Zibart have its documents dispersed and walls tumbled as sexually separatist? Perhaps she would.
The temptation to respond point by point to the often contradictory complaints in Ms. Zibart's review-down to her dislike of the book's use of sans serif type and white space-is considerable. Suffice it to protest her neoreactionary response to the many "two-fers" ("First Black Woman," "First Black and First Woman") included and to regret her failure to catch the irony of the FAO Ceres medal (1977) that depicted an unnamed Italian shepherdess. This final entry in Barbara Raskin's chapter on women in agriculture was not unconnected to novelist Raskin's introductory remarks on the historic, and continuing, anonymity of women as the principal producers of much of the world's food . . .
My editorial slip in letting a conceivably unclear reference to one of Queen Elizabeth II's predecessors on the British throne mar her entry was well caught. I am conscious of many similar flaws and some more serious errors (the latter being corrected in the second printing). . . .
Eve Zibart replies:
I SPECIFICALLY SAID that the editors' fostering of sexual separatism was inadvertent and despite their obvious good intentions. And I cheerfully bow to Ms. Raskin's irony, a tone which was so lacking in the rest of the book that I could scarcely credit it where it was due.
However, if Ms. O'Neill believes that Phyllis Schlafly must achieve "what she set out to do" before being included, I must even more strenuously oppose the entries for Wallis Warfield Simpson and Lisa Halaby, who presumably "set out to" thwart the logical progression of British monarchy, and to marry a king.
I look forward to the second printing's resolution of such contradictions.